Just the trip up Old Moody Road is reason enough to do this ride: a gravel road with an eagle view of the Columbia River. Then the route rolls into farmlands that are sprinkled with history: old farm buildings and schoolhouses that are just fun photo ops.
Overall, this route is a spinning delight with four jagged climbs (i.e., teeth) to keep you grinning. It’s a nice mixture of big open hay fields, cow pastures, rocky formations, and streams buried into the thick of alder, ash, and cottonwood trees. The route never goes very high, making it a possibility when everything else is snowed in. And there’s enough pavement to keep all the roadies in the group happy.
But we will warn you that the start is a tough one: a steep climb right out of the parking lot that pops up to 16% on gravel. If you are an optimist, you will say it is a quick way to take the chill out of the air. If you are an overachiever, you will laugh and scream, “Bring it on!” And if you are a complainer, it will give you something to bitch about right at the start.
Adventure / Gravel Route
Technical Difficulty & Risk[what this means]
Moderate+ due to (a) the steep initial pitch (up to 16%) on Old Moody road that climbs 600 feet in just over a mile and (b) the 2 mile section of rugged gravel on Mason road from miles 23 to 26. Thus, there are 5 miles (Old Moody road on the outgoing and incoming for a total of 2 miles) that are demanding of the 50.
When we like to ride this …
This is a ride that “goes” almost all year round as the max elevation is just under 1500 feet. Thus, on a warmish February day, this is a good choice. We really like this ride in late spring when the creeks run full, the hills are covered in green, and the flowers are in bloom.
Deschutes River State Recreation site. Flush toilets. Water. Requires a state park pass or a daily permit, which can be purchased on site. An alternative parking site is to drive along the route to the top of the climb on Old Moody Road at about the 2 mile mark. By parking here, you will bypass the steep initial climb.
Lat / Long: 45.631640, -120.908834 (Alternative start: 45.632341, -120.931548)
Food / Water
Ride Details**Click to Read More
Miles 0 to 8 / Old Moody (West) / Gravel
From the parking area head west across the Deschutes River via Highway 206 and then turn immediately left onto Old Moody road. Use this first mile to get a short warm-up in. Just as the road turns to gravel and passes under the railway, it pitches up. Steeply! In 1.1 miles you climb 600 feet with short pitches approaching 15%. But … don’t forget to look back over your right shoulder, for views of the vineyard and the Columbia River.
Once on Fulton Ridge, Old Moody road rolls up and down with majestic views of the hills and the Columbia River Gorge. This 6 miles of gravel is a highlight of the route. At mile 7, there is a short steep down pitch into Fairbanks. At the junction, go left on Fifteenmile Road [paved]. Look to your left for the historic Fairbanks schoolhouse and the Oregon Trail historic marker.
In the first years of the Oregon Trail, pioneers arrived at The Dalles (via Fairbanks) with their only choice to float the wagons down the mighty Columbia River toward the Willamette Valley. However, when the Barlow Toll Road opened two years later, this offered an alternative route around Mt. Hood. The Dalles is still the eastern gateway to the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area. Visitors can get a taste of the region through one of the local farms or wineries, experience amazing outdoor adventures, or explore the town’s rich history. [Mt Hood Territory]
Miles 8 to 16 / Fifteenmile Road / Paved
The next 8 miles follow Fifteenmile creek. The road climbs gently gaining 475 feet over the distance. The area is dominated by farming and ranching, but interspersed are some really cool rock formations. At mile 15.6, marked by a large corral area, Fifteenmile creek exits to the right and the road begins to climb more steeply.
Fifteenmile Creek and its tributaries (Eightmile, Fivemile, and Ramsey Creek)originate in the Mt. Hood National Forest and flow northeasterly, discharging into the Columbia River just downstream of The Dalles Dam. In the rain shadow of the Cascades, the watershed receives most of its rain in the winter with an occasional summer thunderstorm. Rainfall averages are 27 inches in the west grading to 12 inches in the east. It is home to the eastern-most run of wild winter steelhead in the Columbia Basin. Agriculture is about 72% of the land base. [Wasco County Soil and Water Conservation District]
Miles 16 to 31 / The Teeth / Paved & Gravel
The next 15 miles are marked by a series of four climbs [the Teeth]. Overall, you gain and lose 1800 feet. The longest climb is the first at 600 feet of gain over 3 miles. The shortest climb is the last at 300 feet in just under a mile. There are some steep pitches both up and down on the gravel, be prepared and don’t overcook a turn and become ditch bound.
A highlight of this section are some old historic farm buildings and grain elevators from the early 1900’s.
The Great Southern Railway ran from The Dalles to Dufur. Every few miles a siding was built with accompanying warehouses and grain elevators. The stops along the line included: Petersburg, Fairbanks, Fulton, Emerson, Wrentham, Rice, Boyd and Dufur, and Friend. The train ran daily until the late 1920s. [Historic The Dalles]
Miles 31 to 43 / Eightmile and Fifteen mile Roads / Paved
At mile 31, make a hard right onto Eightmile Road [paved]. The next 7 miles are slightly downhill, softly twisting and turning following the creek through meadows and oak trees. On this section, we saw a herd of deer and gang of wild turkeys.
When the road widens slightly, this marks your cue for a right-hand turn onto Fifteenmile road. A very quiet road. The creek will be to your right, and the area is dominated by farms, hayfields, and cows. The going is ever so slightly uphill.
Miles 43 to Finish / Old Moody (East) / Gravel
Upon reaching Fairbanks, make a left and begin a short climb back atop Fulton Ridge. The 5 miles back in on Old Moody road are (in our opinion) more scenic and fun than that of the outgoing.[micro-video] But … don’t forget about the short technical descent at the very end!
Fairbanks was established in 1905 as a station on the Great Southern Railroad. It was named for Charles W. Fairbanks, then newly elected vice president under Theodore Roosevelt. Fairbanks post office was established in 1905 and ran until 1909. [Wikipedia]
If you are looking for a shorter and easier ride there are several options. First, take out the big starting hill by driving to the alternate parking area. Then, using a mapping platform like Ride with GPS, map out a course to your liking for distance and elevation gain by using any of the roads inside the circle / loop of the documented route. From north to south the roads and surface type are:
- Company Hollow road (103): Gravel
- McCoy road: Gravel
- Emerson Loop road: Paved
- Kelly Cutoff road: Paved
- Roberts Market road: Gravel
- Wrentham Market road: Paved
If you’re looking for a longer ride consider the long version. At mile 18 it continues south climbing Summit Ridge and then dropping back down towards Dufur via Easton Canyon Road [gravel]. 68 miles / 5300 feet of gain / 55% gravel. Map / Cue Sheet / GPX file / TCX file.
This route rides equally well in both directions. We have mapped it out in the counterclockwise direction as it showcases roads we have used in other routes but in the opposite direction. The views from either direction are terrific, but different!
There is not a lot of traffic on the route, but we do recommend a red blinky light as a majority of the route is on paved roads.
The Dalles area can be notorious for strong winds. Before riding, we suggest that you look at the wind forecast with something like Windy. (This is a favorite app / website of Captain O’s.)
Red = paved road
Brown = gravel / dirt road